Author: Amelia C. Gormley
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 09/21/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Apocalyptic/dystopian, BDSM, Crime Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Mystery
The weapon that nearly destroyed humanity may be their only salvation.
Rhys Cooper’s unique immunity to all three strains of the virus that nearly annihilated humanity has brought him the unwanted attention of Clean Zone scientists. They’ve summoned him for testing—ostensibly in the hopes of finding a vaccine—but Rhys’s partner, Darius Murrell, has good reason not to trust any government. He and his comrades in Delta Company were unwitting test subjects for Project Juggernaut, the military experiment that gave them superhuman abilities and unleashed the pandemic. Doubting the government’s intentions, Delta Company refuses to let Rhys go alone.
Fear of infection has kept Zach Houtman and his lover Nico Fernández apart for a decade. They meet rarely, just long enough to coordinate their spying on the head of the government’s virus research division. Secretary Littlewood is a vicious predator, and they suspect he’s trying to acquire the strain of the virus that would make him superhuman. To stop him, they need the perfect bait: Rhys.
For Rhys, helping them might cost him his relationship with Darius—or his life. For Zach and Nico, even if their plan succeeds, they still face the ultimate question: can infected and uninfected people ever live together safely?
Oh, Rhys and Darius, how I’ve missed you! So… what’s up? Besides revenants wanting to kill and eat you, fears of infection from multiple strains of Bane, and various other challenges in trying to stay alive, of course.
*** to the audience ***
Let’s find out!
The intersecting of Rhys and Darius’ story from “Strain” with that of Zach and Nico’s from “Juggernaut” here in this book creates an immediately mature forest filled with possibilities for conflict, surprises, and maybe, just maybe, even some good endings. Or, at least, beginnings to a future that includes more than just death and loss and betrayal.
I’ll do my best not to spoil anything here, as that is our practice here at PBA, but just know that if you haven’t yet read “Strain”, book one of this series, you might see a few things beyond what’s in the blurb for it, as well as “Juggernaut”, book two. All three books are connected in so many ways that it’s a challenge to review this one without mentioning some characters and basic detail from the other books.
I found myself asking many questions as I was reading. I love when an author makes me do that. Would there ever be a way for the Jugs to have children? What would a meeting between Darius and Nico look like? Would there be another battle and, if so, who would be left standing? Who would end up in charge? And are we humans always doomed to revert to the very same mistakes we’ve suffered through before? Why can’t we choose the better path, the one less littered by isolationism and the scramble for power at the expense of others?
If you can’t tell already, reading this book makes you an active participant, not a passive viewer.
Promises are important. They’re precious, yet sometimes treated like a commodity. Changes in value and follow through are inevitable. For Rhys, there’s this…
Were they saying it to reassure Rhys that he wasn’t being as foolhardy as he felt? Or did they really believe it?
Nearly every character in this book encounters this dilemma, most of those instances involving the difference between life and death. Oh yeah, the stakes are high, even higher than before, higher than ever. With knowledge comes decisions and choices, none of them easy for any of these people. There passage above goes on much longer but some of it refers back to what we learn in “Strain”, so I’m not including it. Hopefully the impact is still significant. All of these people have lost so much. For some, practically everything.
The tendrils of emotion, mystery, fear, anger, desperation, desire, and danger continue to grow and weave together in tighter and more complicated ways. The points where one ends and another begins continue to disappear, fading and fraying and threatening to make all of the effort for naught.
Darius has become obsessed with wanting a real life for Rhys, whatever the cost. For his part, Rhys wasn’t letting Darius off that easy. He was fighting for them to have that life together, he’s fighting for everyone. So is Zach. And Nico? Lawdy, I was riveted.
Meanwhile, on the writing front, Gormley strikes a great balance in reminding us about past events and universe rules for this world without overdoing it: the Jugs and their strain of Bane and the ramifications, for them and for those in the future who could be forced with infection; the different strains and what they mean, if and how they’re changing. What possible cures, if any, could there be? And what would that mean and for whom? For everyone? Or anyone at all?
Just as the physical stakes are sky high in this book, so are the emotional ones. And the surprises! They just kept coming, clever without being cheeky or obvious. I was rubbing my hands together with glee about the implications. My heart truly started racing, especially during the last quarter of the book. What this all means is that the relationships and connections between these people are the backbone of this story. This fact is never forgotten, never traded on unfairly or cheaply, never allowed to lose its importance.
I never thought I’d say this, but I was brought to tears more than once, something that rarely happens to me while reading, especially a story of this type.
He shuffled away, leaving Xolani pacing by the ruins. He was almost out of earshot when she called after him, “Rhys?”
“Yeah?” He glanced back at her, waiting as she shuffled her weight awkwardly from one foot to another.
“I’ve never been prouder of the fact that I argued to save your life that day at the monastery than I am right now. You’ve grown into an incredible man. I’m glad I got to see it happen.”
The final chapters of this book are beautiful, each storyline deftly transitioning from one to the next and back again. Every difficult scene, and there are many, is worth suffering through for what we get in the end. The entire story is so well done, but the finale exists on another level, all its own.
Each book in this series has its own tone and style and yet they are clearly connected and work best when read together, like some mega-length super-novel. Gorgeously plotted, I know I’ll be reading them again, in quick succession. I can’t wait to see what I maybe missed the first time around, and experience some of the same emotions. To say I’m satisfied is the epitome of understatement.
I also own a copy of this book.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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